Clayman Institute announces 2011-12 postdoctoral fellows

by admin on 05/13/11 at 11:16 am

The Clayman Institute is pleased to announce our two Postdoctoral Research Fellows for 2011-12: Lauren Aguilar and Erin Cech.   This was a banner year for interest in the Clayman  Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, drawing applications from gender scholars at top universities both nationally and internationally.  The Clayman Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellows join our efforts to create new gender thinking to move Beyond the Stalled Revolution.  The fellows contribute to our work by translating gender research for a broader audience and participating to our ongoing interdisciplinary collaborations to advance gender equality.

Lauren Aguilar

Lauren Aguilar

Lauren Aguilar (Psychology, Columbia University) investigates the role stereotypes have played in stalling gender progress. Engrained in the human mind, social norms and stereotypes are an incredibly resilient, yet invisible force with which to reckon. Aguilar’s new work in social psychology examines how stereotypes play out in everyday social interactions.   Her dissertation, “Gender Identity Threat in Same & Mixed-Gender Negotiations: Speech Accommodation & Relational Outcomes,” examines how “stereotype threat” contributes to the under-representation of women in traditionally male fields such as business, law, and management.

Current research shows that stereotype threat, or the apprehension that one will be evaluated on the basis of stereotypes, plays a role in the gender achievement gap on evaluative tests. We know little, however, about how stereotype threat affects women during everyday social interactions.  Aguilar’s research implies that subtle cues in interpersonal communication affect how women are perceived and relate to others in professional settings.  In her dissertation work she investigates how gender stereotypes affect nonconscious communication, interpersonal relations, and instrumental performance in negotiation—a highly gender-stereotyped domain. Aguilar’s work shows that stereotypes can undermine women’s instrumental and relational performance in ways that often go unnoticed, which may further perpetuate stereotypes about women in male-dominated domains and ultimately hinder women’s career success. Aguilar is currently completing revisions for publication in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology.

During her Clayman Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Aguilar will begin a new project in collaboration with Stanford Professor, Greg Walton.  In this project, Aguilar will focus on women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  The study will illuminate how  subtle cues of social inclusion or exclusion, which emerge in everyday interpersonal workplace interactions, shapes women’s experience, performance and retention in these fields.

Erin Cech

Erin Cech

Why is gender inequality so resilient in the U.S., despite the steep rise and broad dissemination of egalitarian legal and cultural mandates in the last four decades?  Erin Cech (Sociology, University of California, San Diego) seeks answers to this question by investigating how gender inequality is reproduced through processes that are not overtly discriminatory or coercive, but rather are built into seemingly innocuous cultural beliefs and practices.  Cech examines the cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction, and she uses science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions as insightful cases for identifying these mechanisms.  Cech’s own background in STEM (she earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Montana State University) undergirds her investigation of gender inequality in STEM fields with insider knowledge.

Cech’s dissertation, “The Self-Expressive Edge of Sex-Segregation: The Role of Gender Schemas and Self-Conceptions in College Major Selection and Career Launch,” examines how two culturally-informed, individually-held sets of beliefs, gender schemas (beliefs about the appropriate roles and “essential natures” of men and women) and self-conceptions (gendered beliefs about the self) work in tandem to inspire decision-making that reproduces occupational sex segregation.  These culturally-informed self-conceptions not only help direct the distribution of men and women into already-segregated college majors and career fields, they also help to reproduce the cultural sex-typing of such fields as “masculine” and “feminine” domains.  While college major and career decisions might appear, at first glance, to be a matter of personal choice, Cech deftly shows how the complex formation of gendered self-conceptions leads to the persistence of occupational sex segregation among recent college graduates.

Erin Cech’s research experience includes studies on the role of professional culture in gender wage inequality; perceptions of inequality among high-level professional women; and cross-national beliefs about work time for mothers.  In addition, she is a member of two NSF-funded research teams: “FuturePaths,” which examines the professional socialization and persistence of engineering students; and a group exploring the gendered experiences of Native American students in STEM.

During her fellowship at the Clayman Institute, Erin Cech will be working on a book based on her dissertation research.  She will also work on a longitudinal analysis of the “price of parenting” in STEM with sociologist Mary Blair-Loy, collaborate on a mixed-methods study of LGBT science and engineering professionals, and continue work on a cross-national study of young boys’ and girls’ perceptions of math with sociologist Maria Charles.

Lauren Aguilar and Erin Cech, who are completing their doctoral work this spring, will bring a fresh perspective when they join the Clayman Institute in October 2012.

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